According to a series of recent surveys, occupational health is finally becoming as much a cause for concern as workplace safety. Neal Hill, Product Line Manager, Casella, looks at our changing attitudes to Health and Safety and at how innovative technology can help to reduce risks to occupational health.
The approach to occupational Health & Safety is changing all over the world with an increasing number of businesses shifting from a reactive attitude to a conscious management of operational issues, and a whole raft of surveys have appeared to prove it.
One of the most recent was an international survey conducted by DNV GL Business Assurance and the research institute GFK Eurisko, which consulted almost 4,000 professionals from businesses in different industries in Europe, the Americas and Asia on attitudes to Health & Safety Management.
Perhaps one of the most interesting findings of the survey was the suggestion that a more proactive approach is being adopted across the board. “Managing health and safety at work has become an integrated part of today’s corporate strategy,” the survey said. “More than 90% of people surveyed agree, and 76% state they even implement an ad hoc policy, above and beyond what is required by law and regulations. The bigger the corporation the higher the application rate, but surprisingly, 70% of small firms adopt specific approaches, too.”
Alongside the more established precautions such as regular maintenance of premises and the preparations for an emergency, over a third of those canvassed also claimed to be addressing issues such as the assessment of all risks related to Health & Safety and preventive measures. In the modern workplace, “an assessment of all risks related to Health & Safety” should certainly include those relating to dangers such as dust and noise.
Health and Safety practices are sometimes based on an oversimplified assessment of risk to comply with the most basic demands of legislation. However, more enlightened companies are following more proactive risk reduction strategies that go much further.
The effects of exposure to potentially toxic dusts can be extremely harmful, despite the long latency period of any developing condition. It may take many years before symptoms, such as cancers of the lungs, throat and nose as well as other respiratory conditions including emphysema and asthma, present themselves.
To prevent the losses to both employee health and business profitability that arise from, at one end of the scale, lost working hours, to, at the opposite end of the scale, claims for compensation raised as a result of serious illness, businesses can take advantage of modern instrumentation to monitor conditions and protect the business and workforce from the negative effects of exposure. Customer expectations are high given the growing deployment of sensors in the home and the environment but modern instrumentation is providing increasingly sophisticated answers.
For example, hand-held data logging instruments can be used in real-time to detect harmful contaminants such as airborne dusts, fumes and aerosols. Casella developed the very first dust measurement equipment over 60 years ago, and today in addition to certification for use in potentially hazardous atmospheres due to flammable gases or dusts, the Casella Microdust Pro offers the reliability that is essential in Health & Safety equipment. The rugged data logging device is used for spot checks and walk-through surveys that instantly provide data where excessive dust levels are occurring. Easy to use and built to withstand harsh environments, the multi-language instrument can be used in a range of engineering applications, including industrial process monitoring, boundary monitoring for construction and demolition, and testing air filtration efficiency. Microdust Pro has the highest maximum measurement range of any hand-held real-time dust monitor available today and, to add to its versatility, it can accommodate a range of accessories for gravimetric and size-selective sampling applications.
The urge to focus on short term results remains the enemy of progress when it comes to occupational health issues but the tide is turning and, as the survey said, efforts will move from operative aspects to organizational ones, marking a relevant step towards the development of a strong corporate culture of occupational Health & Safety. With more research and analysis of the kind discussed at the top of this article, and more innovative technology to make the detection of dust and noise easier and more efficient, we can defend the workforce against not only the short term but the long-term threats to their well-being.
“What is certain,” says DNV GL Business Assurance, “is that the focus on the topic will be kept high in the coming years. In fact, more than 90% of people surveyed expect to maintain or increase investments for occupational Health and Safety in the next three years.” And as long as investment is there to back up the healthier attitude that is prevailing across industry, the future for occupational health looks good.